Mayor views aviation expansion in Singapore led by British expertise

27 November 2014

The Mayor of London has warned that while the UK Airports Commission flies up a blind alley the rest of the world is already building new runways and terminal buildings that are designed and built using British expertise and which will put them well ahead of the UK in the race for new global business.

Today (27 November) the Mayor is on the first leg of a trade mission to the Far East, and within minutes of landing at Changi Airport in Singapore he viewed construction work taking place on a new terminal building that has been designed by a British firm, to be ready in 2017.

His hosts also showed the Mayor their plans for another new terminal and a new runway that they hope will strengthen their position as one of the world’s leading hub airports when the latter opens in the mid-2020s.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “We need to get on and provide the type of hub aviation facilities that every other country is building. Far too long has been spent faffing around having endless discussions rather than taking the bull by the horns and showing the ambition to be able to compete with our global rivals. We need a bold and long-lasting solution to Britain’s aviation needs, it is an approach that is being taken by forward thinking nations from every corner of the planet, and it is an issue that needs sorting now rather than being delayed by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Whitehall.”

In the 1970s Singapore realised that its old, post-war airport would not be able to support the country's economic and connectivity needs - and relocated their airport. They chose a site away from populated areas and with room to expand, with its first terminal opening in 1981; today, Changi airport is the sixth busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic and eighth busiest for international cargo traffic. The airport already serves around 300 cities in 70 countries and territories around the world and regularly wins awards as the world's best airport.

The Mayor was shown building work on a new fourth terminal for the airport which will mean Changi is able to handle another 16 million passengers every year. Air travel in the region is growing rapidly and passenger traffic in the region is forecast to triple by 2031 making it the world’s largest aviation market.

With plans already in place for a third runway and a fifth terminal to be built by the mid-2020s, the airport is set to double its current capacity and cement its position as a world-leading hub airport, providing Singapore with the connectivity it needs.

The new terminal being built at Changi Airport has been designed by an award winning firm of British architects and designers. Benoy was founded in the UK in 1947 and now has studios in the UK, the Middle East, India, China and Asia.

Global Operations Director for Benoy, Tom Cartledge, said: Benoy’s studios in Asia work seamlessly with the UK-based studios to design schemes in all regions as we collaborate with global developers investing across the world. Changi is representative of the international influence of British architecture. We have designed an airport which incorporates the necessities of a mixed-use scheme, because that is what airports represent these days; a development that is aviation-led, but also commercial, retail, leisure and more. T4 focuses on the passenger as a consumer, and we believe in designing schemes which address the most basic needs of the visitor but also meet their highest possible expectations.”

This is the latest example of the world calling on British engineering and design expertise to deliver first class airport infrastructure. In September a Foster & Partners-led consortium was announced as winners of the competition to build the new international hub airport for Mexico City. Foster & Partners are already well known in Asia, having been responsible for both the award-winning Hong Kong airport and Beijing Capital airport Terminal 3.

The new 30 million passengers a year terminal in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia was designed by a British consortium of Atkins, Arup and Areen Design; and with Atkins also as programme manager, is scheduled to open in the coming months.

Whole on the trade mission the Mayor will also fly into Kuala Lumpur airport, where the Malaysians took a similar decision to build their 'next generation hub' in 1998 and which todays ranks as the world's eleventh busiest international airport. The hub has enhanced Malaysia's connectivity, both with the mainstream carriers but also as home to Air Asia, the region's leading low-cost carrier.

Contrary to what the Airports Commission have claimed to date, this also demonstrates that a new, well planned hub airport with sufficient capacity has the ability to adapt and cater for all types of traffic, including growth in low-cost airlines.

The Mayor of London has told the Airports Commission that by restricting their consultation to expansion plans at Heathrow and Gatwick they have only prioritised the short term and private interests of the large corporations controlling our airports; and they have entirely missed the opportunity to plan for the wider development and planning challenges faced by a city where the population is forecast to increase by 37 per cent to more than 11 million people by 2050.

Figures from Oxford Economics illustrate that in 2050, the air service connectivity available at a new four runway hub airport in the Thames Estuary would underpin £92.1bn of national GDP each year.

By comparison, the inferior connectivity on offer at a three runway Heathrow would generate £59.1bn, and a two runway Gatwick only £22.6bn. These figures represent the impact each airport would have in facilitating trade, foreign direct investment and tourism.

The Mayor cannot conceive of any possible scenario in which a Government would approve the expansion of Heathrow and a new runway at Gatwick would leave the UK without the four runway hub airport it needs to compete with its rivals.

His team are reviewing materials provided by the Airports Commission as part of a public consultation on the issue with a fine-tooth comb and will provide a response based on the long term interests of those who live and work in London.